Second Life Photography w/Black Dragon & DoF & Photoshop

You will see your avatar name in the Poser. Click it. Now you are ready to freeze your avatar. I usually use the PoseAnywhere HUD or wait for the pose I want from one of my AO’s Stand-Animations. When I see the avatar posed as I want her, I click Start Posing in the Poser. This freezes the avatar.

I have also arranged my animations into folders. I can turn off my AO and play animations directly from inventory.

These are the 2 clicks needed to freeze the avatar

With some animations things are moving too fast and it is hard to click at just the right moment to catch just the pose I want. Grrr… Fortunately there is a handy thing in Black Dragon’s developer’s menu, Slow Motion Animations. Check the link for how to get to it and the various options.

This slow-motion feature is in all viewers AFAIK. You’ll find it in the Develop menu which may or may not show in your viewer’s menu. You have to enable it. Use Ctrl-Alt-Q to toggle it on and off.

If you are going to modify the avatar’s pose, get that done. Take your snapshot. Do not move the camera or avatar. Click the Color button in the Snapshot panel and change it to Depth. You’ll see the Preview change. Save the Depth Map image.

Because the Poser freezes the avatar. It will be in the exact same position for both shots. You do have to be careful as clicking to change from Color to Depth causes a new image to be captured. It seems to do this in all viewers.

Once you have the two images open them both in Photoshop, or image editor of your choice. I will be using PS.

Place the Depth Map image on top. It will look like the image two above.

Now click the Channels tab, usually next to the Layers tab. If you don’t see it, click Window (in top menu)->Channels. Then select either the Red, Green, or Blue channel and drag it to the make new channel button at the bottom of the panel.

Click the RGB channel, which sets things back to the normal working mode. THEN switch back to Layers and hide the Depth Map image.

Make a copy of the layer the image is on. Do not turn it into a Smart Object. That won’t work for what we are doing. This new copy is the working copy and the original is a backup in case we need to start over. Turn the lower layer with the original image off and select the layer you are going to work with.

Then click Filter->Blur->Lens Blur

Photoshop’s Lens Blur

In the panel is a drop-down for selecting the Depth Map Channel. (See below) Click it and select the channel you created earlier. I copied the Blue channel so we see Blue copy here.

Now you can play with the settings until you get the look you want.

If this is your first time using this panel click on a slider and move it all the way left and right to see what it does. Your experimenting is an easier way than my trying to explain it to you.

Some of the sliders are sensitive. How sensitive depends on your image.

Once you have the look you want, click OK. It can take a minute for large images.

Ta Daaaa!


Black Dragon has 6 controls (easy access via the Machinima Sidebar – there is a Toolbar button for that) plus on/off for Depth of Field (which is in Preferences). Photoshop has 13 plus a choice to use it or not. You don’t have to use all those controls. But they do extend your creative ability and create a more realistic distortion to the image.

There are some tradeoffs. In the viewers, you can have things in front of and behind the focal point out of focus. (Example BD DoF) The Lens Blur in Photoshop can be made to do that, but it is PITA.

I did this image with PS and a Depth Map from Firestorm. I was experimenting. I learned it is way easier to use other PS features than a viewer depth map to get that blur in front effect. And double easy to just use the viewer’s DoF for this type of focus effect.

I did this image with BD’s DoF (same as above). It was quick and easy and wasn’t perfect, a tree that should have been out of focus was in focus. It would have been an easy fix in PS.

Which you use depends on you and your preferences. I think I get more control and a better image in Photoshop. But, it is faster and easier in the viewer.

3 thoughts on “Second Life Photography w/Black Dragon & DoF & Photoshop

  1. You can also globally freeze the world -> Ctrl + Alt + F.
    Makes it easier to get a perfect shot even of moving objects, not just avatars. Freeze World can also be found in the Snapshot window but its much quicker to do it via shortcut.

    Combine this with the already mentioned Slow Motion Animations and its really easy to get the exact pose, i’d recommend opening an animation (any, doesnt matter) and use the Speed control there, it’s global and even allows you to go backwards in case you missed the perfect moment rather than waiting again for the right moment to appear, setting it to 0.0 also allows directly freezing the animation, so keeping it around 0.1 around the time you think your perfect pose happens is a good way to get it right quite reliably.

    The DoF pictures that show the messed up stone through the window is an issue that only happens if you ignore alphas in depth, Black Dragon offers an option to include or exclude alphas from Depth of Field, sometimes its better to include them, sometimes its worse but now with EEP i’d generally say its better to keep it on now that both depth reliant features (Volumetric Lighting and Depth of Field) no longer produce large solid squares in air since their alpha is now treated properly. This feature was solely added because prior to EEP alpha on surfaces were ignored in depth and caused these huge blur errors. You can find the option in both the Machinima Sidebar at the top or Preferences – Display – Depth of Field.

    BD also now offers the ability to toggle front blur off if you just want to blur behind the focus point, pretty helpful for closeup super blurry Depth of Field shots where the Avatar you are trying to shoot gets blurred too. You can find the option in Preferences – Display – Depth of Field.

    In addition to that you can also enable the oldschool High Quality Depth of Field (if your GPU can handle it) which is much stronger and much more accurate, changing the Circle of Confusion is an absolute key component to have a smooth Depth of Field blur from front to back.

    Example of a bad CoC:
    Example of a good CoC:

    Notice how the blur artifacts around the ears vanish, it did lower the blur strength a bit but you can counteract that by playing with the other settings and then tuning CoC again.

    Example of extreme DoF with little to no artifacts:

    This is still not perfect but with a tiny bit of camera finetuning and unlocking the focus point and moving it a tiny itsy bit back via mouse and locking it there (both options found in Dragon – My Useful Features – Shortcuts) you can make this a really nice DoF shot.

  2. Pingback: How to add depth of field to your SL photos in post-production – Second Sighting

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